Counselling in Wokingham – Piggy In The Middle

Paul Cockayne – 07791

Welcome to my counselling blog. You can find more information about me by clicking one of the links at the top of this page

piggy1Nowadays, with more and more relationships ending in separation, there are far more blended families with each partner bringing one or more children from a previous relationship.   Such situations are enormously complicated. Just think about the mathematics. If you get together with a new partner, each bringing two of your own children from a previous relationship, there are six of you involved. Add in your two exes and that’s eight people. How many relationships is that? Put eight dots on a piece of paper and join each dot to each other dot…that’s an awfully complicated network. Twenty-eight lines by my reckoning, twenty-eight relationships.

What can often happen is that one person in that network finds themselves caught in the middle, feeling that everything revolves around them. This can be a very difficult position to be in, especially if they are trying to keep everybody in that network happy.

Different people will react to this role in different ways. I’ll give you three examples.

For a person who likes to care for others, being caught in the middle can be exhausting. Understanding what every wants and needs, trying to see everyone’s point of view, being the shoulder everyone can cry on – that can be emotionally draining.

For a person who likes to do things to help others, it can be equally difficult. Providing a taxi-service for all those kids, fixing things for both new partner and old. The fixer can run themselves ragged trying to give everyone what they are asking for.

piggy3It can be tempting to tell everyone what they want to hear and some people find themselves doing just that – they duck and dive, they juggle priorities, telling one person one thing and someone else the opposite, and for a while this can be quite an exciting role to take. In the short term, everyone is happy and the juggler is in control. In the medium term, of course, the lies tend to be discovered and nobody ends up happy at all.

So, the “piggy in the middle” can be motivated by different things but the end result is the same – they work harder and harder to try to maintain an equilibrium. They end up exhausted and frustrated but others tend to see them as the “go to” person and so the demands and pressures on them increase until, in the end, something has to give.

piggy2What to do? It’s difficult but the person caught in the middle needs to step away, to stop running round after everyone, whether they’re doing that in practical ways, or as a diplomat, or providing emotional support. They will probably feel that things will collapse, feel that war will break out, that the world will come to and end, but it really won’t. There may we more arguments, fallings out or sulks in the short term but people will work through things and find their own solutions.

Running round trying make everybody happy ultimately tends to mean that others don’t take responsibility, they leave it to the “piggy in the middle” – who often tends to get the blame when things don’t go well.

About Paul Cockayne

Counsellor, musician, iPhone developer, games-player, cheese-lover....
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